Emotional Attachment to Robots can Turn Dangerous for Humans

by Bidita Debnath on Sep 23 2013 10:59 PM

 Emotional Attachment to Robots can Turn Dangerous for Humans
Researchers have found that in some cases, people have started to treat robots like pets, friends, and sometimes even as an extension of themselves.
With robots substituting for humans to do their dirty or sometimes dangerous work.

That raises the question, if a soldier attaches human or animal-like characteristics to a field robot, can it affect how they use the robot? What if they "care" too much about the robot to send it into a dangerous situation?

That's what Julie Carpenter, who just received her UW doctorate in education, wanted to know. She interviewed Explosive Ordnance Disposal military personnel - highly trained soldiers who use robots to disarm explosives - about how they feel about the robots they work with every day.

Part of her research involved determining if the relationship these soldiers have with field robots could affect their decision-making ability and, therefore, mission outcomes. In short, even though the robot isn't human, how would a soldier feel if their robot got damaged or blown up?

What Carpenter found is that troops' relationships with robots continue to evolve as the technology changes.

Soldiers told her that attachment to their robots didn't affect their performance, yet acknowledged that they felt a range of emotions such as frustration, anger and even sadness when their field robot was destroyed.

That makes Carpenter wonder whether outcomes on the battlefield could potentially be compromised by human-robot attachment, or the feeling of self-extension into the robot described by some operators.

Some soldiers told Carpenter they could tell who was operating the robot by how it moved.

In fact, some robot operators reported they saw their robots as an extension of themselves and felt frustrated with technical limitations or mechanical issues because it reflected badly on them.

Soldiers told Carpenter their first reaction to a robot being blown up was anger at losing an expensive piece of equipment, but some also described a feeling of loss.


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